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Lessons learned from Thursday's NFL preseason games

Tom Brady came to the sideline and twice slammed his helmet to the field. After two unsuccessful drives against the New Orleans Saints where Brady was under duress, the two-time NFL MVP let his struggling New England Patriots offensive line hear it.

The first week of the preseason matters to Brady. It should matter to you, too, as long as you don't get too carried away. There will be no screaming or slamming of heavy objects, but here are our big takeaways from Thursday's six games.

Washington Redskins 7, Buffalo Bills 6

» Robert Griffin III looked like he belonged. There wasn't anything flashy in his 4-of-6 passing, 70-yard, one-touchdown performance, but that's kind of the point. He stood tall in the pocket. He was protected well. He found secondary receivers. Griffin looked especially good in comparison to Rex Grossman's 2-of-10 performance.

» Best moment of this game: Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams had to bear hug Griffin back from trying to tackle Bills safety George Wilson after a botched handoff to Evan Royster turned over the ball. Veteran move by Williams.

» Evan Royster is the clear starting running back in Washington over Roy Helu. Neither back shined Thursday.

» In the battle of the backup quarterbacks for Buffalo, Vince Young and Tyler Thigpen both struggled throwing the ball. At least Young led the team in rushing.

» Bills running back C.J. Spiller had a drop and a touchdown-erasing penalty during his brief time in the game. This happens too much with him.

Baltimore Ravens 31, Atlanta Falcons 17

» The Ravens' passing game reportedly has enjoyed a strong camp, but Baltimore gave the home faithful something to complain about with three straight three-and-outs to start their night. Joe Flacco stayed in against the Falcons' backups to get something positive going.

» The Julio Jones bandwagon will get even more full after he caught six passes for 109 yards and one touchdown in limited action. Those aren't preseason numbers.

New England Patriots 7, New Orleans Saints 6

» Tom Brady's protection was rough overall. Saints defensive end Will Smith gave second-year Patriots left tackle Nate Solder all he can handle. The Patriots have talked up Solder all offseason.

» Drew Brees went 1-of-4 passing for 4 yards. Keep that in mind the next time you rip a guy like Kevin Kolb for a miserable preseason outing. It happens in these shortened games.

» Patriots rookie pass rusher Chandler Jones made Saints Pro Bowl pick Jermon Bushrod look like a D-II prospect. Jones's big game didn't show up in the box score, but he forced two holdings, and pressures, and probably got all of New England very excited.

» NFL.com and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Patriots linebacker Dane Fletcher tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. It's a brutal break for a guy who was set to have a big role.

Philadelphia Eagles 24, Pittsburgh Steelers 23

» Chants of "Andy, Andy" rang out from the Lincoln Financial Field crowd, four days after the death of the Eagles coach's son, Garrett, this week. It was an emotional night in Philadelphia.

» An injury to Michael Vick's thumb that knocked him out of the game doesn't appear to be serious.

» Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie could get a serious hit to the wallet after launching himself to hit Byron Leftwich.

» The less said about Steelers rookie left tackle Mike Adams' night, the better. (Unless you really hate the Steelers.) He gave up 2.5 sacks wiin nine plays, then got hurt. Ouch.

» Eagles fans probably will start clamoring to see more of rookie quarterback Nick Foles after a fine outing with the third-teamers.

San Diego Chargers 21, Green Bay Packers 13

» Chargers running back Ryan Mathews erased an offseason of optimism after breaking his clavicle on his first carry. He's now set to miss four to six weeks.

» The Packers' young safeties struggled. This isn't a new trend.

» Underrated Packers starting inside linebacker Desmond Bishop left the game with a knee injury and didn't return.

» We love it when guys who have made noise all offseason back up that performance. Antonio Gates looked like the Antonio Gates of old on a 23-yard touchdown. And Packers receiver Randall Cobb looked too good to keep off the field, leading the team in receiving.

Denver Broncos 31, Chicago Bears 3

» Peyton Manning had an encouraging performance, even if was only one long drive. He got great protection from his offensive line. He was hurried only one time (barely) in eight drop-backs and stepped up nicely in the pocket. His arm looked good.

His interception to end his drive was the result of two great defensive plays. Bears cornerback D.J. Moore dove to barely tip a pass that was slightly off-target. Safety Major Wright dove to catch the ball.

» Wright later left with a hamstring injury and didn't return.

» Broncos backup quarterback Caleb Hanie was soundly booed by Bears fans who not-so-fondly remembered his days in Chicago. Hanie struggled, but he was briefly a worldwide trending topic. So there's that.

» We feel bad for Bears fans who came to this game. Jay Cutler, Julius Peppers, Brandon Marshal, and Matt Forte rested. Brian Urlacher was out with his knee injury.

That was fun. We'll do this every night of games through the first three weeks of the preseason. (Even we can't pretend the fourth week matters.)

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